HARPER Adams University in Ireland is set to collaborate with Markethill High School to encourage Ulster students to consider careers in agriculture.
Basil Bayne, the Secretary for Harper Adams University in Ireland and Secretary of the Poultry Industry Association, said the agriculture industry in Northern Ireland will experience growth and create employment,
He said it is the onus of everyone involved in the sector to encourage pupils to aim for careers in the industry.
Agri-Food is already Northern Ireland’s most successful industry. It is a £4.4billion business which is exporting worldwide and currently employs almost 100,000 in the region.
Mr Bayne, who made the announcement at the Markethill High School Keystage 4 Presentation, said Markethill High School is leading the way in Northern Ireland by introducing a GCSE in Agriculture and Land Use - a move which was officially launched in line with the 2013 Balmoral Show.
The launch of the new GCSE coincided also with the establishment of the Agri-Food Strategy Board by the Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development, Michelle O’Neill, and Arlene Foster, the Minister of Enterprise, Trade and Investment and also the publication of its report ‘Going For Growth’.
Mr Bayne said: “The Agri-food Strategy Board envisages the expansion of the agriculture industry and employment in the industry. It behoves us all to encourage and motivate young people to consider a career in agriculture.
“Harper Adams in Ireland, the Association of Harper Adams graduates in Ireland, is pleased to be associated with Markethill High School and to support its students with an award.”
The GCSE in Agriculture and Land Use started in September and has the full backing the Ulster Farmer’s Union (UFU).
The school, which currently has 492 students, is set in a rural location where many of its pupils and their families come from farming backgrounds.
Principal James Maxwell said: “We are delighted that Harper Adams University in Ireland are supporting us. It recognises how vital it is for rural schools to support its students who live on farms, see food production and manufacturing on a daily basis and who understand the importance of food security, energy security and climate change.
“These pupils, and indeed pupils who do not come from farming backgrounds, are being provided with the skills, the knowledge and the expertise here at Markethill High School to embark on careers in a £4.4billion business.”
Pupils of Markethill High School come from villages and town lands covering vast swathes of the countryside from Markethill, Richill, Killylea, Newry, Armagh city and Portadown to name a few.
Mr Maxwell said: “This collaboration with Harper Adams University in Ireland cements our position as leading Northern Ireland for the promotion and development of agriculture in education.
“Agriculture is the core business of the world’s survival and we are proud Markethill High School is making such a significant contribution for the future careers of our pupils but also for the sustainability of the agri sector in Northern Ireland.”